3 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Scripts for Video Lessons
Updated: Jul 13
Video is everywhere these days, especially when it comes to online learning. Of course, for every video lesson, there's a script that drives the content.
Scripts are the Most Important Documents You'll Write
Here's the thing about scripts. They are one of the most important documents you'll work on as an instructional designer or course content creator. Like their visual counterpart, the storyboard, scripts offer the initial blueprint that drives production. In fact, it's often impossible to write the storyboard with at least a partial script.
Scripts are critical because they are the CHEAPEST thing to fix. Rewriting some content will cost far less than refilming actors, rerecording voiceover, re-editing video, and republishing content when you realize the words are quite right. Getting the right words down during the scripting process helps to avoid these expensive changes.
But if you write a poor script, then no matter how high your production value, your video is not going to be engaging and effective.
And unfortunately, a lot of my clients tell me they have a hard time finding someone who can write great scripts for video lessons. The truth is that writing for video, especially instructional video, is different from writing most other kinds of instructional copy, such as eBooks and test questions.
Over the course of my career, I've written literally hundreds of scripts for video. It's one of the biggest asks I get from clients. I've also had the pleasure of training developing instructional designers to do the same. I can say-- through trial and error and research-- I've learned a few things, particularly what NOT to do.
So let's talk about the biggest mistakes I see folks make when it comes to scripting video lessons.
The Big 3
1. They use language that sounds unnatural when spoken.
Writing a script is different than writing for print media, and there is nothing more uncomfortable than listening to someone speaking in "proper" written English (ok, a bit of hyperbole, but you get my point). Rules that you learned for writing in grammar school, like "never use a contraction" or "don't end a sentence with a proposition" should be completely ignored.
2. Every script is written like a lecture.
Lecture has its place, sure, but most people don't find being talked at particularly engaging, and even less so if they're not in an immersive environment. Yet, new instructional designers tend to gravitate towards writing video lessons that sound a lot like lectures. They simply walk through definitions and facts. They don't take full advantage of the fact that they're writing for multimedia delivery, and they don't think about the end user.
3. The audio conflicts with the video visuals.
Clashing audio and visuals is a cardinal sin for video lessons, but I see it all the time. Text is popping up on screen that says something completely different from what's being discussed. Someone is talking about red, but the color on screen is blue. According to the narrator, Bob is supposed to be tightening a bolt, but he's still just getting his wrench out. It's more than just bad multimedia design, though. These conflicts make it more difficult for the learner to process the information.
If you're interested in learning what TO DO when writing scripts for video, consider signing up for my Scripting Voiceover for Video self study mini course.
You can learn more here.
Nicole Papaioannou Lugara, PhD is the founder of Your Instructional Designer and its learning network, The Upskill Experience. She has worked with clients ranging from solo consultants to enterprise businesses across a variety of industries to improve employee performance and customer satisfaction.
Nicole received her PhD in English from St. John's University, Queens, NY. Her research focuses on student engaged, transfer of learning, and writing across contexts. Her dissertation, Momentum: Why Students Move Writing Beyond, the Classroom is available on ERIC/ProQuest.